Zimmer Hip Complications - Cancer Risks with Metal-on-Metal Hips

Study Finds Cancer Risks Higher with Metal-on-Metal Hip Replacements

Staff Writer | March 17th, 2014

Zimmer Hip ComplicationsCertain cancers can be added to the list of complications associated with metal-on-metal (MoM) hip replacements like the Zimmer hip, according to a February 2014 study.  The study concluded that MoM hip patients suffered over twice as many soft-tissue sarcomas, and one-third more basal cell carcinomas, as patients with conventional devices.

The researchers examined records of over 10,000 Finnish citizens with MoM devices and over 18,000 conventional device recipients, and tracked the cancer incidence and causes of death among the two groups.  The scientists found that the overall risk of cancer or death due to cancer did not increase in the ten years after surgery.  In an important cautionary note, however, the researchers stated, “metal-on-metal hip implants should not be considered safe until data with longer follow-up time are available.”

Zimmer hip complications increase 

This latest study adds to the large body of research noting severe complications linked to Zimmer hip device and others like it.

In January 2014, the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and The Hip Society issued a Consensus Statement regarding the use of MoM hip replacements.  The statement noted that such devices fail two to three times as often as conventional devices, and pointed to adverse tissue reactions involving the hip joint as an important reason for the higher failure rate.

In 2013 the FDA ordered manufacturers of MoM devices like the Zimmer hip replacement to provide clinical evidence of safety and effectiveness in order to continue to market the products.

According to the agency, Zimmer hip complications, like those due to other MoM implants, include:

  • Infection
  • Chronic pain
  • Inflammation, tumors, and tissue necrosis in surrounding soft tissue
  • Dislocation
  • Bone or device fracture
  • Toxic metals in the joint and bloodstream
  • Loss or reduction of joint function
  • Transport of metal ions to a developing fetus through the placenta
  • Premature device failure
  • Revision surgery
  • Femoral neck fracture (for hip resurfacing)

In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency published several alerts in 2010 describing tissue damage and other complications associated with MoM hip replacements.

The Australian Orthopaedic Association National Joint Replacement Registry found in 2010 that patients with MoM devices like Zimmer required corrective surgery significantly more often than those with other types of replacement hips.

Zimmer hip lawsuits

The FDA approved Zimmer’s Durom Cup hip replacement device in 2006.  During the next three years, roughly 12,000 of the devices were implanted.  However, multiple complications and failures were reported, and Zimmer temporarily suspended production of the device in 2008.  Many patients elected to file a Zimmer hip lawsuit, charging the company with producing and marketing a defectively designed device and failing to warn them of the product’s dangers.  Patients sought compensation for the chronic pain and suffering they were experiencing, as well as payment for past and future medical bills, lost income, and other types of losses.

In June 2010, federal lawsuits were centralized for pretrial proceedings in New Jersey federal court.  The Multi-District Litigation (MDL) streamlines pretrial exchanges of documents and other evidence, and permits more efficient resolution of disputes, which works to the advantage of the parties and the court.  Many more Zimmer hip lawsuits have been transferred to the New Jersey federal judge since the original MDL order.

Since suspending production of the Durom Cup in 2008, Zimmer has continued to manufacture and market other MoM hip replacement devices.  As the type and number of Zimmer hip complications increase, no doubt the number of lawsuits will rise as well, as victims seek compensation for their many losses.

  1. Acta Orthopaedica, Cancer incidence and cause-specific mortality in patients with metal-on-metal hip replacements in Finland, http://informahealthcare.com/doi/full/10.3109/17453674.2013.878830

  2. Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Risk Stratification Algorithm for Management of Patients with Metal-on-Metal Hip Arthroplasty:  Consensus Statement of the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and The Hip Society  http://jbjs.org/article.aspx?articleid=1790481